Bath Kill the Bill

Hundreds of people turned out in Bath city centre last Saturday to join a National Day Action against the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The Bill is a huge piece of legislation that includes major government proposals on crime and justice in England and Wales. One part of the Bill covers changes to protests and how they are policed. Those opposing the Bill say that the amendments are a danger to freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest as demonstrators could face harsh penalties.

A crowd gathered at 12pm outside Bath Abbey and proceedings were opened by a rousing song sung by musician Adey Shaw.  They then heard speeches by library assistant and local resident Lizzie Pope, Trade Union Council Bath Secretary Mike Carley, a University of Bath politics student and veteran film director and lifelong champion of the vulnerable and the oppressed, Ken Loach, before marching through Bath city centre.

Organiser Jane Samson said “The government’s draconian new policing Bill threatens your right to protest, it takes away our hard-won rights and freedoms and attacks us all …

If this Bill is passed then the organisers of a protest like this could face years behind bars. It could stop us from protecting the planet because we won’t be able to hold the government to account – and we’re running out of time to fight back. Parts of this Bill wouldn’t be out of place in a dictatorship. It is very dark indeed and we have to show our opposition.”

A politics student from the University of Bath, addressing the crowd, said: “Our opposition to this government must persist beyond this Bill. This government, and the government inevitably to come soon after Johnson is ousted, will continue to restrict our civil freedoms, terrorise immigrants and ethnic minorities, and prevent us from fighting back. And I say this to the government – when you must resort to criminalising protest  how do you honestly believe that your actions are for the public good? What are you gaining and what are you trying to achieve? Because if we are ‘leftie do-gooders’ in calling time on authoritarianism, then so be it”.

Lizzie, a library assistant working in Bath, said: “You may or may not agree with all the tactics of civil disobedience that have been employed by some protesters. But I hope that you would agree that protest is anything but a selfish act.  It might be noisy, or annoying, it might be disruptive, it might make people uncomfortable, and it might cause an inconvenience. But it is not selfish. These acts of protest are selfless. They are done out of despair and out of hope, and primarily out of love – love for our planet and our natural world, for our wildlife, for future generations. People who put themselves in harm’s way, who step outside of what is comfortable, who inconvenience themselves – peaceful and compassionate people who risk anger and confrontation and imprisonment are not selfish people”.

Bath TUC Secretary Mike Carley said: “Why are they so scared? Real power doesn’t lie with the Conservative Party – it lies with the drivers, the shop workers, the doctors and the nurses and the teachers and all the people who kept turning up for work.”

Film maker Ken Loach said “When they tell you not to demonstrate, remind them that they’re only able to vote now because people did what you are doing here today. That’s recent history!”

One protester commented “The event was very well organised and when it set off it was one glorious, exuberant, vociferous, noisy, defiant, enthusiastic march. Bristol marches have become a fabric of the city, but for such a march to take place in Bath, not renowned as a hotbed of radicalism, it had tremendous impact and not one that the establishment can easily brush off.”

This protest came together in just a few days. When we realized that nothing was planned for the National Day of Action here in Bath, we decided to take matters into our own hands.  From the numbers gathered at such short notice, there is evidently an appetite to protest this appalling Bill. We are enormously grateful to our four brilliant and inspiring speakers who have stepped up at very short notice”.

To find out more about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill read the Liberty report

The following are action points if you want to oppose the Bill:

write to your MP

write to the Lords in the House of Lords

join/support organisations protesting the legislation

attend protests


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